This is second in a two-part series about sleep. Click here to read part one.
Last week I wrote about how poor sleep can negatively affect your mental health.
If you’re thinking, “It’s not my fault, I just can’t fall asleep at night!” then try this method taught to military pilots in combat zones in WWII, where sleep deprivation often lead to deadly errors.
The man who developed this method, Bud Winter, was a college football coach who had worked with a psych professor to help his athletes relax under pressure. And after six weeks of training soldiers, “96 percent of pilots could fall asleep within 120 seconds. Even with distractions like gunfire in the background. Even after drinking coffee. Even sitting up.”
Ready to learn how to fall asleep in two minutes? Here we go:
- Get in a comfortable position. If you’re not lying down in bed, then lean the seat back in your car, find a comfortable chair at work, etc.
- Relax your face. This may sound silly, but it’s key to the whole thing. When your muscles in your face are tensed, they’re sending signals to your brain that you’re stressed. When you relax your face, it sends a signal to your body that you’re safe to drop off to sleep. So smooth out your forehead, let your jaw go slack, close your eyes.
- Drop your shoulders. Feel like your shoulders are dropping straight down to the floor, and let the back of your neck go limp. “Most people store most tension in their shoulders, necks, and jaws,” so take a breath and let it out slowly, letting the last of the stress out on your breath.
- Relax your arms. Start with your dominant side, relaxing your bicep first. If it won’t relax then tense it and let it go slack, then do the same with your dominant hand. Repeat the process with your non-dominant side.
- Let your legs go limp. This is similar to your arms: start with the leg on your dominant side and focus on each muscle from the hip down, feeling it getting heavy. Start with your quads, then go down to your calves, then your ankle, then the foot. Repeat for your non-dominant leg.
- Power down your brain. You need to clear your mind for at least 10 seconds. You can do this by focusing on your breathing, in and out, nice and slow, all the while not letting other thoughts creep in. If thoughts continue to intrude, Winter suggests you can imagine lying on your back in a canoe and looking up into the clouds on a warm summer day, or that you’re swinging in a black velvet hammock in the total dark.
If you try this method and it works for you, let me know! I want to help you sleep better and more soundly at night, as it ties in so strongly to your peace of mind.
Satu Woodland is owner and clinician of Mental Health Solutions, an integrative mental health practice located at Bown Crossing in Boise, Idaho. If you would like to discuss the information in this blog further with her, please call 208-918-0958. She sees adolescents and adults. Information in this blog is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider about decisions regarding your health.